15 Apr 2019
A number of participants at the recently held public lecture on drought management strategies applauded Agribank for sharing valuable information on possible ways that livestock farmers can deal with the current adverse weather conditions. The lecture, held on Thursday 11 April 2019 in Otjiwarongo by Agribank’s Agri-Advisory Services Division (AASD), was attended by more than 60 part time and full time farmers, all with one common concern – the impact of the current drought on their livestock.
Namibia has endured recurrent drought conditions since 2013, which have affected the drier regions of the country such as the south, west and north-west, although some improvements in rainfall were recorded in 2017. Drought is characterized by a period of insufficient rainfall (far below average/normal) that depletes grazing areas and deprives the soil of sufficient/ moisture, resulting in poor land productivity. Consequently, drought conditions compromise livestock productivity, farm income, and farmers’ sustainable livelihoods.
During drought, livestock conditions deteriorate due to thirst and hunger, and eventual deaths are inevitable. Farmers do not earn much from their livestock as market prices have reduced due to deteriorated animal body conditions and insufficient fodder or grazing to maintain them. Financial burdens become heavier as farmers tend to depend heavily on commercial feed supplements to survive the drought.
AASD’s Technical Officer, Erastus Ngaruka, who conducted the public lecture, implored upon farmers to always have a plan to mitigate the impact of drought on their farming activities. "The most important stage is where farmers have to make decisions for any strategy chosen. Basically, they have three options; Relocate the animals, Sell the animals, or feed the animals, or a combination of these options", Ngaruka explained. According to Ngaruka, when a farmer decides on any or all three options, there are some key questions to be answered so that the decision is economical and not counter-productive in the end.
If the farmer decides to relocate, the following are key considerations: where to relocate and how far from essential services (e.g. markets, inputs), which animals and how many to be relocated, is there sufficient and reliable grazing and water? and what is the duration of your stay at the new place? It is advisable to assess the status of the new grazing area before moving the animals.
If the farmer decides to sell, the following needs to be considered. Which animals and how many to sell? when and where these animals will be sold, is there a restocking plan? how much money is expected from sales and what it is budgeted for. Timing is key when it comes to selling the animals, it is best to sell them while their body conditions and prices are favourable.
If the farmer decides to feed, the following needs to be considered. Which animals and how many needs to be fed? is there sufficient feed and additional money for extra feed? how much costs and for how long is the feeding period? what is your farm fodder flow plan and which are the sources? Drought feeding is most effective when animals are segregated according to their production stages and feeding needs.
Ngaruka reiterated that drought conditions will always vary, and there is no standard recipe to cope with drought. "Every year, a farmer should re-assess his/her farm business in terms of finances, feeds, and ability to survive any drought year," he concluded.
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